Monday, September 08, 2003

The Patrol

The day began early. A quick brief, a quick breakfast, camouflage painted on hands and face, weapons checked and rechecked, scenarios discussed and practiced, weapons locked and loaded. We were ready. Even in the humid, pre-dawn twilight one could sense the tension. This was no normal patrol. This was the real thing...real bullets, real enemy, real everything. Shortly after sunup we headed quietly out into the dense forest undergrowth. Our patrol was to take us into the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea and along the Military Demarcation Line. 12 inches to our left was a hostile, communist country. As we made our way along the MDL I began to look into North Korea. It looked remarkably like to South Korea from my vantage, with little more than vines and trees everywhere. Only an occasional rusted yellow sign informed us which country we were in. After a while, I began to wonder what the other side of that sign looked like so, as we approached the border marker, keeping my feet in the free world, I leaned across the border to quickly look at things from another perspective. At the next sign I actually crossed the border and walked around the sign. I got my look at life in North Korea and returned safely to the South. As the day and the patrol wore on I ventured several more times into the North, each time going a bit farther, becoming more comfortable with the thought that an encounter with a hostile force was not very likely. As my audacity grew I began to think how harmless it would be to walk around and see if I could find any interesting souvenirs lying around. "After all," I reasoned, "I'm not defecting or anything. I'm simply exploring." By noon the patrol ended and we all returned safely home.

Have you ever been somewhere or done something you knew you shouldn't? At first it seemed like no big deal, just a little curious exploring. "I won't stay long," you reason. "Just a little looking around and trophy collecting." That's what sin is like. But don't kid yourself, stay on the wrong side of the border and you will get caught. Proverbs 16:25 says, "There's a way that looks harmless enough; look again--it leads straight to hell." (MSG)

Don't get caught in enemy territory. On Judgment Day, there'll be hell to pay.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Word Power

To say they "had words" would be an understatement. Boy, did they have words. Words like, "auriferous" and "eradicate" and "impecuniously" and "inesculent" and "tropophilous" and "palynological" and "schadenfreude" and "zarzuela" and "pilchard" and "zetetic" and "concinnity" and "epexegesis" and "aleatoric" and "irenicism" and "gallimaufry". For Samantha of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts "diapason" chimed up and finished her off. For Sean of Muncie, Indiana it was "limn" that painted him out. "Otacoustic" sounded the fate of Aaron of Decatur, Illinois. And in the end no one could take the place of Sean of Aitkin, Minnesota as he successfully spelled "succedaneum" to win the 74th Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee on May 31, 2001 in Atlanta, Georgia. The English Language may not be the prettiest language in the world but it certainly is multifarious ("having great variety"), and, arguably, the most influential language in the modern world. Why then do people always want to speak French? I know lots of people in this very organization who must be nearly fluent because they are always saying, "pardon my French, Chaplain".

No matter who we are dealing with at a given moment, whether children, subordinates, or even leaders, our choice of words state or imply something very clearly about us and our relationship with the other person or persons to whom we are speaking. The Apostle James said that like a bit controlling the movement of a horse, or the rudder setting the course of a ship, so too, "the tongue is a small part of the body" that can determine the direction of our lives (James 3:5). How we speak and the words we choose to employ affect our attitudes, our actions, our moods, as wells as the attitudes, actions, and moods of our listeners. The right words can steer a misguided soldier toward success. The wrong words can make every member of our homes upset. The course of our day, and ultimately of our lives, can be altered simply by our words.

Where are your words taking you?

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Teamwork is the Pits

It’s been called “The greatest spectacle in the history of sports”. How’s that for a bold claim? I should think that honor would be reserved for Bicycle Basketball. However, the contest in question is none other than the Indianapolis 500. Speed, adrenaline, heat, asphalt and rubber combine in one dizzying 2.5-mile lap after another to create a scene nearly impossible not to watch! Where else do you hear phrases like, “Racers, start your engines!”, “The yellow flag is out”, or “Emerson Fittipaldi is dreamy!”. It is, to say the least, a spectacle. But this year something different caught my eye. It wasn’t the crash in the first turn of the first lap, although that was a pretty scary. It wasn’t the rookie taking the checkered flag, although that was pretty exciting. It was the pit crews. Was it just my imagination or did they seem to move at the speed of light while engaging in a dance of upgrades and repairs, checks and refills. Mere seconds separating the beginning of their automotive ballet from its dramatic conclusion. It was rhythmic and fluid, something beautiful. How could they do so much, so right, in so little time? Simple ... Teamwork. “A cooperative effort by the members of a group or team to achieve a common goal.” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English language, 4th ed.) It is one of the foundational principles that make our nation different and greater than every other nation on the planet. It is why we are able to say, “E Pluribus Unum” (One out of many)

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought” (Romans 12:3). Because when you do you sacrifice the efforts of the entire team on the altar of arrogance. The same holds true for those who might think their role in the efforts of the team are minimal or even unnecessary. Again Paul wrote, “If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.” (1 Corinthians 12:15).

Whether you drive or clean windshields, you are no more necessary or unnecessary than anyone else on the team “As it is, there are many parts, but one body” (1 Corinthians 12:20). Do what God has created you to do. It’s important!